The Groundbreaking Mars Mission Comes to a Close

The space agency's mission has concluded after collecting data for four years.

Jan 8, 2023
The Groundbreaking Mars Mission Comes to a Close | The space agency's mission has concluded after collecting data for four years.

Space exploration is the final frontier. While people look up into the night sky and see beautiful stars and planets and can only dream about them..astronomers and scientists look up into the night sky and see more amazing things to explore and learn about.

NASA’s historic Mars mission is officially called The Interior Exploration Using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport Lander but it is otherwise known as InSight.

The mission was launched in 2018 and arrived on Mars six months later, according to Space.Com. In the four years since then, the lander has sent back streams of important data regarding the physical makeup of the Red Planet as well as its weather and landscape.  The mission was declared over in December, 2022, when communications from Mars ended.

A non-rover
InSight was unlike its cousin missions in that it was not designed to rove around Mars, but instead to stay put. It was designed to stay in its landing spot and perform the first “checkup” of Mars, bedecked with 7-foot solar arrays, a suite of instruments, and a robotic arm.

The data gleaned from the lander sought to answer questions about Mars’s physical composition, structure, and geologic history, reported NYT. To that end, InSight was equipped with two main instruments: a seismometer, to measure the planet’s seismic activity, and an instrument affectionately called “the mole” which was designed to burrow beneath Mars’s crust.

Though the surface of Mars is not made up of tectonic plates, like Earth’s is, it still experiences earthquakes, which occur as the planet’s crust cools, shrinks, and cracks. InSight's seismometer was the first instrument to capture an earthquake on another planet. Likewise, the instrument was able to measure the seismic waves coming off Mars, creating what is essentially a sonogram of the plant, which provided data about its crust, mantle and core. 

Unfortunately, “the mole” was less successful. Space.Com reported  that no matter what the scientists did, the large hammer drill could not get a grip on the landing site soil, and remained stuck near the surface. 

"Mars itself has been surprising: It's been more difficult in some ways and it's been more forthcoming in some ways,” Dr. William “Bruce” Banerdt, InSight Principal Investigator at the Jet Propulsion Lab told Space.Com.

“The places that were difficult, we were still able to eke out the information that we were looking for by getting more clever about the analysis and so forth. And the places where Mars was generous to us, we had things fall in our lap that we weren't expecting.”

Another One Hits the Dust
In the end, it was Martian dust that brought InSight’s mission to an end. The lander was powered by large solar panels which slowly became blanketed by the dust kicked up on the windy, cold desert planet. 

InSight last made contact with scientists on earth on December 15th, and on December 21st, the team declared the mission dead. However, the NYT reported that it is possible that in the future a small dust devil cyclone could pass over the dormant robot, and clear off its solar panels, bringing it back to life. Then mankind will continue to learn about the secrets of this amazing universe.

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Tiki is a freelance writer, editor, and translator with a passion for writing stories. She believes in taking small actions to positively impact the world. She spends her free time reading, baking, creating art, and walking her rescue dog.